Why Discussing Mental Health in the Workplace Shouldn’t Be Taboo

Mental health issues affect all types of people in all facets of modern life. It’s very much an issue in the workplace as well, especially when considering the stress and tension that workers feel dealing with superiors and deadlines.

Yet it’s also true that many employees with mental health issues and potential psychological problems are extremely reluctant to seek treatment for their condition. Part of the reason for this is the continuing stigma attached to having such a problem. Workers are also afraid that admitting to having psychological reasons may ultimately jeopardize their careers and put their jobs at risk.

Workplaces today must encourage a more open environment regarding mental health for employees. There are many reasons for this, including:

Minimizing Productivity Loss

It may seem cynical to point out, but in the end, the problem of mental health issues can very well affect a company’s bottom line. When mental health problems are ignored and left untreated, the people with these problems will have their productivity reduced. They can’t work as effectively until they resolve these problems, and for that they will need professional treatment.

What’s more, they can lead to absenteeism and more frequent turnover. These problems can disrupt the smooth flow of a company’s operations, so they must be addressed as quickly as possible.

A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2003 found that depression alone cost US employers a total of more than $44 billion per year. That’s significantly greater than the $13 billion annual cost of workers without depression for employers.

Caring Properly for Workers

It’s an acknowledged fact that companies must take care of their employees. It’s in fact a law that requires companies to provide a safe environment for their workers.

But the health of workers isn’t just a matter of their physical well-being. It’s more holistic than such a narrow view. Their mental health also matters, because their mental health can also affect their physical health.

The Problem is More Widespread than Most People Think

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration released data in 2016 indicating that up to 18% of the US adult population may have a mental illness of some sort in any given year. In concrete terms, that means the mental problems each year affect up to 44.7 million people.

The most common of these problems are anxiety and depression, and these 2 problems aren’t limited to white- or blue-collar jobs. They affect people regardless of their occupation and industry, their economic status, their race, religion, or cultural affiliation. In short, anyone can be affected.

The Problems Can Have Long Term Consequences

Most chronic conditions don’t begin until workers are older, or at least in their 40s. But mental health issues begin earlier, with workers in their 30s or even 20s. The symptoms and the worsening consequences can persist for the rest of their careers if the problems are left untreated.

Stress is also a problem, and unfortunately there’s a rather apparent connection between workplace stress and the start of depression and anxiety problems.

Mental Health and Worker Safety

The mind drives the body. A worker’s mental state can obviously affect their own physical safety when they’re distraught, anxious, or depressed. They’re unable to make good and safe decisions, and they may not be fully competent enough to recognize potential hazards.

These issues become worse when affected workers are team leaders. Their improper decisions may not just affect their own safety, but the well-being of other workers in the workplace.

Admittedly, workers today have that reluctance of talking about their problems. But companies today must overcome this stigma—their profits and brand reputation hang in the balance if nothing else.